If you consider that dogs are generally curious pets, have a tendency to get in what they are not supposed to, and most cannabis products are manufactured into yummy candies it does not seem that far out that your dog may get into your cannabis stash and your dog may have ate your weed.
If it does seem far fetched that your dog would consume cannabis aka get into your weed think again, the Los Angeles Times reported that while excess cannabis consumption by canines is not new, cases are growing as more and more states legalize the drug, and its use becomes more widespread.
How Many Dogs Consume Cannabis?
If your dog ate your weed it seems like you are not alone. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals the group’s poison hotline suggests that as more and more states have legalized recreational marijuana, reports of marijuana toxicity in dogs have also grown.
Between 2017 and 2020, national call volume for cannabis ingestion rose from 1,436 to 3,923 cases, said Tina Wismer, a veterinarian and senior director of the New York-based ASPCA Poison Control Center, as reported in the Los Angeles Times.
Those numbers are likely just a fraction of the true incidence of cannabis poisonings since reporting to the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center is voluntary — but the trend is clear. In California, where recreational marijuana was legalized in November 2016, call numbers grew by 276% between 2016 and 2020. In Colorado, those numbers have risen eleven-fold since cannabis legalization in 2012.
In a Colorado vet clinic, researchers found that In Colorado, a State with legalized marijuana for medical use, the frequency of marijuana toxicosis in dogs at 2 veterinary hospitals increased 4-fold over a 5-year period (2005 to 2010). The authors found a positive correlation between the increased number of cases of marijuana toxicosis in dogs and the increased number of medical marijuana licenses issued.
Added to this the increase in prevalence of every day foods that are very attractive to pets being infused with cannabis like popcorn, candy, chips, chocolate, and even gum and the reality is that your pet, unless protected, may find its way to cannabis.
What this means is that pet owners need to find ways to protect their pets, understand a treatment plan and understand the best way to help their pets in the event their fur baby does get into their stash.
What to do if your dog ate weed
If your dog ate weed, first confirm the type of product that your dog consumed and the amount by milligrams of THC plus review other ingredients that may be harmful to your pet that may be a part of the product. Second, watch for clinical signs of distress and certain side effects and provide a supportive care. Seek veterinary attention if your dog is experiencing elevated blood pressure, extreme confusion or paranoia and distress.
If you do take your dog to the vet they will administer charcoal to your dog, the same as if they also consumed anything else toxic like one of my pets that got into rat poison (she lived by administering charcoal similar to that here).
If you’re able to act within 15 minutes of ingestion, you should try to induce vomiting to get the marijuana out of the dog’s system. The Huff Post reported that hydrogen peroxide can help if your dog consumes cannabis and suggested that you give one teaspoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide orally per 10 pounds of dog. Your dog should throw up within about 15 minutes,” he said.
What Happens to Dogs When They Consume Cannabis
Weed can be dangerous to dogs at high levels. Dogs are reported to have a higher number of cannabinoid receptors in the brain compared with humans, say researchers in a Canadian Vet Journal article and it has been suggested that they may be more susceptible to the toxic effects than are humans. In the Colorado study referenced above 2 dogs that consumed baked goods that included butter with concentrated medical grade THC died.
Accordingly, the risk of consuming weed is serious for pets, however, it is confusing since on the other hand you can go into near any legal dispensary in the United States and find dog products with THC in them. Let’s read on to understand the difference and how to protect our pets.
What type of weed did your dog consume?
Did Your Dog Consume THC?
When we are talking about weed it can mean many things. It is first important to note the difference between various cannabinoids and manufacturing processes so you can address the issues appropriately. If you had cannabis around for your dog to consume, you likely know that the cannabis plant has over 300 cannabinoids, the most popular is THC and CBD. Hemp is cannabis but with a THC content of lower than .3% (See our hemp FAQs at the end of our product listing here).
CBD was legalized by the Farm Act of 2018 and you can even buy it in your local gas station (although not advised) and grocery store in many states. If you are worried about your dog consuming CBD, CBD is very safe for pets as we describe in our article Can My Pet Overdose on CBD. CBD, like those found in our Calm and Relieve Plus hemp products for dogs have no psychoactive effect and actually found to be very helpful to dogs in many studies.
Much like other cannabinoids other than THC, CBD is tolerated very well by pets and even supportive to pets as we discuss in many of our articles.
If, your dog in fact consumed THC, in cannabis that requires a different analysis. THC is a cannabinoid that is found in cannabis at various concentrations. THC is psychoactive and will have an effect on your pet. The effect will depend on several factors including:
- How much weed your pet consumed,
- The concentration of the cannabis, and
- The type of cannabis product your pet consumed.
Most edible weed products such as a weed brownie, gummies or other edible products contain cannabis concentrates in very high concentrations. In California, there is a legal limit for recreational edible products of 100 mg per package but a typical user will consume 5 mg to 10 mg per serving (This is contrasted to the medical marijuana limit which is higher or unlimited per package).
Which means that if your dog did consume an entire package of cannabis edibles (as most dogs would if they had the chance) the product that they may have consumed could be upwards of 10 times the normal dose for a person that may be multiple times their body weight.
If you can at all assess the amount your dog consumed in milligrams it will be important, not only to assess potential toxic levels but to also let your vet know.
Did your dog consume leaves, flower or a manufactured product?
There is an important concept when assessing your pets exposure to cannabis called decarboxylation. Prior to becoming THC, the cannabis plant contains THCA, and without decarboxylation there is no psychoactive effect. Essentially one cannot get high until THCA is converted into THC. This is most commonly done without you being aware of the chemical process and with heat—the flame of a lighter, the atomizer in a vape pen, a torch with a dab rig, or an oven when making edibles.
THCA in the plant has an extra carboxyl ring in its chemical structure and heat removes that ring, or de-carboxylates the compound. According to Leafly, Decarboxylation occurs through heat, and also time. The high temperatures when smoking and vaporizing instantly decarboxylate compounds in weed, making them immediately available for your body to absorb.
If your pet simply nabbed some dried leaves, trim or other cannabis that was not decarboxylated, unlike edibles, then your pet will not experience a psychoactive effect. However, your pet may experience an upset stomach due to eating something his system is not accustomed to.
On the other hand if your pet nabbed some marijuana edibles then that is a different issue. Cannabis edibles or drinks have been decarboxylated upon purchase, when a consumer eat or drinks them they will make them high in about 20 minutes to 45 minutes without any further processing.
What other ingredients were in the cannabis products?
Of course, if your dog ate leaves or flower from the marijuana plant then there would be no other ingredients in the product that could be harmful other than the product itself unless the product was purchased on the black market and there could be pesticides or herbicides unknown to you.
However, if your dog got into other edibles then there may be other components that are dangerous to pets. Artificial sweeteners like Xylitol, are potentially fatal to dogs.
Certain types of chocolate may also be dangerous to your pet. (see our Chocolate Guide for Pets: Chocolate could poison your dog use our chocolate toxicity infographic to find out if your dog is at risk).
Consider the cannabis strain your dog consumed
Cannabis reacts differently for each different body and added to that certain cannabis strains also provide different effects. A sativa versus an indica variety will have vastly different effects on each different person and each dog.
Cannabis sativa is known for their “head high,” an invigorating, energizing effect that can help reduce anxiety or stress and increase creativity and focus whereas indicas are typically associated with full-body effects, such as increasing deep relaxation and reducing insomnia.
If your dog is paranoid or upset or is incredibly sleepy it may be the particular cannabis strain that is playing a role in his symptoms.
Consider your dogs size and age
Consider your dogs size and weight when you are considering dosages. a small dog will be obviously far more impacted and added to that the believed increase in cannabis receptors in dogs in general and the impacts on large amounts of cannabis could be huge.
An older dog may also feel the effects more as well. An older dog has difficult already with managing heat, confusion and the like (see five things your senior dog wishes they could tell you) and may really suffer from the effects of added stress related to cannabis consumption.
Watch for symptoms of cannabis toxicity
If your dog ate a large amount of weed or high doses you will also need to keep an eye out for any symptoms of weed toxicity. The toxic effects of large amounts of cannabis consumption can be a very serious condition in dogs and other pets, so if you notice any of the signs mentioned below you should seek immediate veterinary care for your pet.
Symptoms of weed poisoning in dogs include, but may not be limited to:
- Loss of coordination
- Inability to control urine – urinary incontinence
- Dilated pupils
- Extreme Low or high body temperature
- Irregular heart rate
- Depression or hyperesthesia, and in severe cases seizures
If your dog has an irregular heart rate or if he starts vomiting a lot, it’s time for a vet visit. In extreme cases vets have reported that dogs have had seizures associated with marijuana intoxication.
You may feel embarrassed to be at the vet with a dog that stole your stash but dogs get into all sorts of things. Your vet is there to help and should not judge and best of all you can assure them that you will be more careful next time. It is not a vets place to report you to law enforcement, especially in a state that has legalized the purchase of cannabis products.
If your dog is suffering from moderate to severe symptoms of weed toxicity, understand that he may be hospitalized and kept overnight at the vet’s office. Your dog may need to be monitored by a vet and he may also need intravenous fluids.
However many vets also advise that with proper care the condition is not usually fatal.
Provide your dog with comfort and supportive care
Likely the most important tip of all is to provide your dog with supportive care. Dogs may be confused, paranoid, and excessively thirsty. Allow them lots of water to flush out there system and love and support.
Prevent your dog from consuming cannabis
At this stage of legalization and with the popularity of cannabis there are may child proof packaging options available.
Find one that works for you and pay attention. Store cannabis products in a safe place out of reach of pets and children and in packaging that cannot be penetrated by even the most tricky of pets.
Certain pets may never try and steal your stash but others that seem to get into everything will certainly find their way to your weed if it is not put away safely.
Any veterinary issue is difficult to manage. First, assess the situation, gather the facts about the products consumed and support your pet and if there are any serious signs seek veterinary care.
Dog Eating Cannabis FAQs
With proper treatment and vet care if needed, weed is usually not toxic enough to actually cause a dog to die. They will have a period of extreme discomfort though. You also have to pay attention to the other potentially toxic items that the cannabis may be with such as edibles with xylitol or dark chocolate.
If your dog ate weed they may seem confused, panting, pacing, or overly drowsy depending on the type of weed a dog consumed. If they have consumed levels of cannabis toxicity then you should be watching for:
Loss of coordination
Inability to control urine – urinary incontinence
Extreme Low or high body temperature
Irregular heart rate
Depression or hyperesthesia, and in severe cases seizures
Your dog may be high for as long as 48 hours. THC is more toxic to dogs due to their body size along with other factors so unlike people who can consume and be high for 2-5 hours depending on the amount consumed, dogs will be high for far longer.
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